How to Become a Fashion Stylist

Do you love fashion and choosing outfits for others? Have you been considering a job as a fashion stylist but aren’t sure exactly what it entails and what’s required to get a job? This post will walk you through everything you need to know on how to become a fashion stylist.

What Is a Fashion Stylist?

Fashion stylists are people with knowledge of current and past fashion trends who advise others on what to wear and how to put outfits together. They can work for an individual as a personal stylist. They can also work for clothing brands, fashion houses, clothing stores, or in television and movies. 

Fashion stylists will put together outfits for use in online stores, on mannequins, runway models, or actors on screen. They must have an eye for aesthetics and detail and must stay current on the latest fashion trends. For those working in film and television, they may need to know fashion history if working on period pieces.

What Does a Typical Work Day for a Fashion Stylist Look Like?

As a fashion stylist, your typical workdays will vary slightly based on whether you style models for print or fashion shows or you style actors. Some days will be spent shopping and researching as you gather different clothing items and assemble outfit ideas. You may have to work with other departments as you choose these looks and will need to communicate and collaborate.

On shooting days, you’ll often have to consult with models or actors, hair and makeup, and editors to decide on the specifics of different looks. You may also need to choose accessories. Make sure to carry a styling kit with tools to help fix any mishaps. You’ll observe the shoot, check for any issues, and then go over the proofs to make sure everything looks right. Photoshoot days can run long.

If you work as a personal stylist, you’ll have a list of clients who will hire you to help them make style choices. You may be called on to choose an outfit for a special event, or you may be required to choose new styles for an entire season. You might spend your days shopping and browsing online for outfits. There is also the possibility of needing to consult with your clients after you’ve chosen their clothes.

Will I Like Being a Fashion Stylist?

If you enjoy fashion and shopping and have an eye for aesthetics and design, you’ll enjoy being a fashion stylist. You will also love this job if you enjoy doing something different each day and don’t mind having hectic work days here and there.

Characteristics and Skills of a Good Fashion Stylist

The most important trait you can have is a good sense of style. You’ll have to stay current with trends, but you’ll also need your own intuition about what looks great. You always have to adapt your style choices to fit your clients’ personalities. 

You’ll need to have great communication skills. You need to be able to tell people what works and what doesn’t. Networking skills are a plus if you want to move up in the industry. You may also need some business knowledge, especially if you plan to start your own business at some point.

Great organizational skills are a must. You’ll often be in charge of keeping up with which outfit pieces go together and moving clothes and accessories from one location to another. You may need to keep notes and track changes. 

Why You Might Not Like Being a Fashion Stylist

This career is certainly not for introverts. You’ll work with others both one-on-one and in larger groups. You may be required to justify your decisions, and you may have to offer constructive criticism to others. You also have to build a rapport with strangers easily, as you won’t always work with the same few people.

A fashion stylist’s days can be long, stressful, and hectic. If you want a job where you clock in and clock out at a set time every day, then this job may not be the best choice for you. It’s also a field where you have to pay your dues, so you may spend several years hustling before moving up in the industry.

Many fashion stylists are freelancers. They run their own business and have a set of clients. If you don’t like the idea of managing a business, you can still be a fashion stylist, but you’ll want to find a company to work for. 

Typical Schooling for a Successful Fashion Stylist

You don’t necessarily have to have a degree to be successful as a fashion stylist, but most companies prefer that you have some college training. You can major in fashion merchandising, fashion design, fashion management, or fashion retailing. If you’d like to get a minor or a double-major, a business degree can be helpful, even if you don’t plan to own your own company.

Years of Schooling

You can spend anywhere from one to six years in college. The length of time you spend in school will depend on what major you choose and which type of degree you want.

Degree Type

There are several different types of degrees available to help you become a fashion stylist.

  • Certificate: usually involves a few classes and can be completed in a year or less
  • Associates: slightly more in-depth classes and usually takes two years to complete
  • Bachelors: requires fashion classes and general studies classes and tends to take four years to complete
  • Masters: requires a bachelor’s degree and is usually completed in two years, meaning you’ll spend a total of six years in school

You’ll get to take various classes, including the history of fashion, textile science, retail buying, visual merchandising, and more. You may also be required to create a portfolio of your work. You can use this portfolio as you begin the job hunt after getting your degree. 

Best Fashion Stylist Colleges

Many great colleges can give you a good start to your career as a fashion stylist. We’ve outlined a few of our favorite in-person and online programs.

In-Person

There are many great in-person schools to help you advance in your fashion stylist career.

Parsons, The New York School of Design

Annual Tuition: $38,510

Parsons at The New York School of Design is one of the best schools in the world for those wanting to go into the fashion industry. The school boasts a horde of famous alumni, including Donna Karan, Tom Ford, and Marc Jacobs. Many of Parsons’s famous alums come back to teach workshops, giving you incredible opportunities to learn.

You can major in fashion marketing, design, or studies, and many of the professors also work in the fashion industry. The school also works with a number of famous brands to help students break into the industry after graduation.

Fashion Institute of Technology

Annual Tuition: $5,168 for residents of New York, $13,550 for residents out-of-state

The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York is another of the world’s most famous colleges for fashion students. A few of its famous graduates include Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, and Caroline Herrera.  FIT is for students who are serious about going into the fashion industry and are willing to put in the long hours.

Some of the majors offered at FIT include fashion design, business, styling, marketing, and illustration. If you want to work in the industry, you’re sure to find a degree that’ll suit you. The school has many great connections in the industry, which can be helpful once you’re ready to begin your job search. 

Kent State University

Annual Tuition: $9,030 for Ohio residents, $16,900 for out-of-state students

You probably don’t think of Kent, Ohio when you think of fashion capitals of the world, but there are several good reasons to consider Kent State for your fashion education. First, while you may be going to school in Ohio, you have the option to study abroad in fashion meccas like Paris and Milan. The school has scholarships aplenty, allowing you to reduce your tuition greatly.

If you’re thinking of starting your own business in the fashion industry, you can’t beat Kent State. The school has an MBA in fashion program that will only take you five years to complete. The school’s renown has grown in recent years and should open some doors to lucrative jobs after graduation.

Online

Online programs allow you the opportunity to work at your own pace, on your own time.

Academy of Art University

Annual Tuition: $23,412

Academy of Art University is an in-person school in San Francisco that offers excellent online fashion programs. It’s a perfect choice if you want all of the credibility of a full-fledged university but need to take your classes online. The courses offer the same rigor but with a more flexible schedule. You’ll even have the opportunity to participate in some of their programs, like the Graduation Fashion Show.

You can get a fashion degree ranging from your associate’s all the way through a master’s degree, making it a good fit whether you’re just getting started or looking to advance your skills and career. You’ll also get an opportunity to work with the same professors you’d have if you took classes on campus.

Penn Foster College

Total Tuition: $5,056 for an associate’s degree

You can get an affordable associate’s degree in fashion merchandising and Penn Foster College. The tuition costs include all course materials. It’s an ideal program for those who are inexperienced and don’t mind starting in an entry-level position after graduation. 

Penn Foster is totally online, and your classes will be on-demand, making it a good choice if you need a flexible course schedule. Classes are also available on mobile so that you can learn just about anywhere. You’ll get to take some exciting and helpful classes focused on both design and business.

Johnson and Wales University

Tuition Per Course: $1,485

Johnson and Wales is another in-person school that offers a prestigious online program. Their fashion program is ideal for those who want to become fashion stylists and want to run their own business or work in a more business-oriented part of the fashion industry. Classes are completely online, and each course runs for eight weeks. It’ll take four years to earn your bachelor’s degree.

You’ll learn all about fashion design and the ins and outs of the fashion industry. You’ll graduate with a firm foundation in just how the industry works and what you’ll need to do to propel your career forward. 

Can I Skip College and Teach Myself How to Be a Fashion Stylist?

Of course, you don’t have to go to college to become a fashion stylist. Here are three nontraditional paths you can take.

Internship or Apprenticeship

One of the quickest ways to break into the fashion industry is through an internship or apprenticing for an established fashion stylist. You’ll get heaps of on-the-job training that you simply won’t get at college. You may also get the chance to network and open a lot of doors to advance your career quickly.

Of course, it can be difficult to get an internship or apprenticeship, even an unpaid one. There are often many people competing for the same spots, and most of them have fashion degrees. You’ll need to be highly talented and have great people skills in order to get the position.

Start Your Own Business

You don’t have to wait for a company to hire you. You can start your own business as a personal fashion stylist. Once you’ve built yourself up, you’ll have a great resume, which can get your foot in the door at a company. 

There are many ways you can market yourself. You can create a website, promote yourself on social media, or start a YouTube channel. Any of these avenues can get you a following and should help you to launch your career.

Learn Industry-Specific Knowledge

While you may not get a college degree, it’s still important that you learn as much as you can about the fashion industry. You’ll want to study fashion styling and read as much as you can about the fashion industry. You will also want to look into any special tools, software, and vocabulary so that you can fit in and understand what to do.

Which Software Programs Do Fashion Stylist’s Use?

As a fashion stylist, you’ll need to learn how to use a handful of software programs.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is one of the fashion industry standards. You can use this software to create your own styles, compare and assess certain styles, and even create presentation boards. This software can handle almost all of the visual work you’ll do.

Adobe Photoshop

You can use Adobe Photoshop for both design and photo editing. You can scan all sorts of images into the software to create design boards. While you likely won’t edit photos if you’re working for a company, it’s still a good idea to understand how the program works.

Autodesk Design Software

Autodesk is another industry standard when it comes to CAD software. You’ll get to use programs like AutoCAD and Sketchbook, both of which can help you create and visualize designs in three dimensions.

Trello or Evernote

As a fashion stylist, you’ll need an application to keep all of your ideas, inspirations, and tasks in one place. Trello allows you to create project boards, while Evernote lets you keep detailed notes and lists.

Slack

If you work for a company, you’ll be part of a team. You’ll be expected to communicate well with others, and many companies are now using slack to organize communications. This software will allow you to send email, text messages, and instant messages all in one place. There is a learning curve with the software, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with it before beginning a job.

What Are the Best Blogs and Influencer Accounts to Follow?

One of the best ways to stay current on trends in the fashion industry is to follow some of these famous fashion influencers.

Who What Wear

Who What Wear is a blog dedicated to reporting on the current trends in fashion, from the runway to celebrities to style on the streets. It’s a must-read blog to keep you current on the latest trends.

Rachel Zoe

Rachel Zoe is now renowned for her work as a designer and media star, but she got her start in the industry as a fashion stylist and still has a high-profile list of clients. She had no formal training in the industry and is a great example to follow if you want a highly successful career.

Petra Flannery

Petra Flannery got her start and a modeling rep but later moved into the role of a fashion stylist. She started by working as an assistant to a famous stylist, then moved to magazine covers, and later celebrities. She’s dressed stars like Zoe Saldana and Emma Stone.

Samantha McMillen

Samantha McMillen got her start by working in PR for famous designers. She became a stylist in 2001 and has a long list of celebrity clients, including Brie Larson, Ryan Gosling, and Johnny Depp. She’s also worked for famous brands like Jimmy Choo, Tiffany & Co., and Rolling Stone.

Leslie Fremar

Leslie Fremar started her fashion stylist career at Vogue, working as part of the editorial staff. Her story supposedly inspired the film The Devil Wears Prada. She now works at Prada as the director of celebrity relations. She works with celebrities like Julianne Moore and Charlize Theron.

5 Ways to Break Into the Fashion Stylist Industry

It’s very difficult to walk into a great job in the fashion industry. You have to hustle and make the right connections if you want to move ahead in the industry. We’ve listed some great tips to help you break into a job in the fashion world.

Get Online

Whether you plan to be a personal fashion stylist or hope to work for a company, you need to establish a presence online. A professional-looking website with your portfolio and resume can often put you far ahead of other applicants. If you plan on running a local business, be sure to include some keywords like “fashion stylist,” “styling,” and your local area so that people can find you on Google. 

To make your website look professional, you can use a platform like WordPress if you’re technically inclined or hire a designer to create one for you if you’re not technically inclined. If you don’t want to pay for a web designer and don’t have many web developing skills, website builders like Wix and Squarespace offer a variety of templates that are easy for you to customize.

Get Social

In addition to your website, you should also set up professional accounts on all major social channels. Since fashion styling is a visual industry, you should definitely be on both Instagram and Pinterest. Instagram is perfect for sharing your daily styles, while Pinterest lets you create style boards to share all of your ideas.

LinkedIn can be a good place to network and meet potential clients. Make sure to create a specific description of what you do so that people searching for a fashion stylist can find you. A YouTube channel is another great way to establish an online presence. Video is incredibly popular. You should create daily or weekly videos to share your latest inspirations.

If you can get enough of a social media following, you may be able to leverage that into a job. You also have the option of monetizing your social media account.

Become an Apprentice

One of the best ways to break into the fashion industry is by becoming an apprentice. Many famous fashion stylists got their start as an apprentice for established stylists. Working for a stylist can have many benefits for your career. 

First, you’ll get to see exactly how the industry works and learn by doing. Learning through experience is often more valuable than the education you’ll get at school. By working as an apprentice, you’ll also get the chance to meet many potential clients and work with companies that may be looking to hire fresh talent. Being an apprentice is probably the best way to establish yourself in the industry.

The most important thing you can do as an apprentice is to work hard. Take opportunities to show your talents where you can, but make sure to always do what’s asked of you. As your superiors see how dedicated you are, they’ll be more likely to eventually hire you or recommend you for other jobs.

Continue Learning

As with most careers, you never really stop learning. As a fashion stylist, you should always continue your education. You should try to keep up with industry standards when it comes to software. Even if you don’t use all of the software directly, it can help you to stand apart and may come in handy with your work. 

It’s also important that you keep up to date on all of the current fashion trends. You need to know what styles are popular, and you need to keep an eye out for up and coming designers. Your clients and bosses will expect you to be current on the latest fashion trends. 

There are many ways you can continue your education, even if you’re on a budget. While there are many affordable online classes you can take, you can also find lots of free tutorials. There are even YouTube channels you can watch to further your education.

Keep Grinding

Unless you have great connections or are incredibly lucky, the fashion industry can be one of the most difficult industries to break into. You may have to start at the bottom and work your way up. You’ll need to work incredibly hard and do everything you can to distinguish yourself. 

The days can be long, and while you’re at the bottom, it can feel like you’re getting nowhere. You will make a lot of mistakes as you’re learning the ropes. You may want to give up, but it’s important that you keep grinding. The people who are successful fashion stylists are the ones who kept going, even when it was hard.

FAQ

Do you still have some questions about how to become a fashion stylist? Read on for some frequently asked questions.

How Much Money Do Fashion Stylist’s Typically Make?

There is a wide range of salaries in the fashion industry. Your salary will depend on where you work and your experience level. As an entry-level fashion stylist or beginning personal stylist, you can expect to make around $26,000 per year. 

As you move up in the industry and gain more experience, you can command a much higher salary. Mid-range stylists make between $50,000-70,000 each year. If you can attain a senior position at one of the major fashion retailers or magazines, or if you’re able to land some celebrity clients, you can make over $100,000 each year, with the potential to earn much more.

What Do You Study to Be a Fashion Stylist?

While you don’t have to get a degree to be a fashion stylist, many fashion stylists do have a college education. Very few universities offer a degree in fashion styling, so most aspiring stylists get a degree in fashion merchandising, design, management, or retailing. 

You may want to choose a major that offers a blend of design and business, as you’ll likely need both skills. Many fashion stylists have degrees in other fields but have a great eye for design, which was enough to propel their careers.

Is a Fashion Stylist a Good Career Choice?

Figuring out if a fashion stylist career is a good career choice depends on a lot of factors. On the one hand, many stylists who are talented, work hard, and have a lot of drive can be wildly successful. There are even many who are successful and make a decent living. However, as with many talent-based industries, not everyone will make it. You can have excellent style instincts and a strong work ethic and still not get very far in the field. 

The fashion industry, along with the film industry where many stylists want to work, is one of the most competitive industries. There simply aren’t enough middle to higher-ranking jobs as there are candidates. As a result, many talented stylists do not make it very far. Sadly, it’s often about who you know more than anything else.

That said, if you have a passion for fashion styling, you shouldn’t be deterred by the odds. Work hard and always be on the lookout for ways to create opportunities for yourself. You may not get the chance to style Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt, but you can find a good job doing something you love.

Are There a Lot of Job Openings for Fashion Stylists?

The number of job openings will often depend on where you want to work. Large cities will often have much more job availability as opposed to smaller areas. But, if you live outside of a big city, many companies, such as Stitch Fix, hire online stylists.

While the growth projection for the fashion industry is only three percent in the next five years, the internet has created a need for more stylists. While it may still be difficult to get a job at a design house or magazine, there are plenty of online opportunities.

What’s the Best Website to Find Fashion Stylist Job Listings?

There are many places online to find fashion stylist listings. Many of the biggest job boards, such as ZipRecruiter, Monster, or Indeed will list postings in the fashion industry from time to time. 

StyleCareers is the best job listings board that is dedicated solely to the fashion industry. The site lets you create a profile and add a portfolio to help potential clients or employers find you. The site also has a search that lets you search for jobs and narrow down the field until you find jobs that are ideal for your specific skill set.

What Are Some Big Companies That Hire Fashion Stylists?

All of the major clothing retailers such as Gap and Macy’s hire stylists for everything from mannequin styling to online style guides. Designers will also hire stylists to assist with new looks and dressing models for runway shows.

Fashion stylists can also find work in the film and television industry. They can work for film studios as a stylist for characters in a film or as a personal stylist to celebrities. 

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